McPHERSON, Kan. — Hannah Pyle has been a four-year starter for the St. Thomas Aquinas soccer team, and now has four state championships as well.
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Special to The Star
And picking her favorite is a no brainer.
"Freshman year I didn’t realize what a big deal it was. This year you kind of know that getting four straight is ridiculous for a high school," Pyle said. "It is literally the most amazing feeling you can ever possibly imagine."
Pyle had one goal and two assists in the Saints’ 5-0 win over previously undefeated Valley Center on Saturday, giving them a fourth-consecutive Class 5A state championship.
It is the program’s 13th state title in girls soccer since 1993.
“All my seniors winning four straight is remarkable,” Aquinas coach Craig Ewing said. “That’s really what makes this special.”
The first 20 minutes showed little signs of a blowout on either side. Valley Center, which had a blistering wind at its back in the first half, was able to keep pace with the Saints’ attack.
It wasn’t until Kelly Sweeney’s goal midway through the half that Valley Center showed any weakness. A second goal from Jamie Kutey right before half proved to be devastating for the Hornets.
“I think that second goal, the last one by Kutey to make it 2-0 at half, had to get into the spirit of who they are,” Ewing said. “We just played a really good half against the wind and that put us in pretty good position the second half.”
The difference between the first and second half for Valley Center, other than playing against the wind after the break, seemed to be attitude.
The Hornets opened the game confident that they could compete with Aquinas, but once the Saints were able to make a few chips in Valley Center’s armor, the rest came unglued.
“You can’t be intimidated or what we did in the second half will happen right away,” Valley Center forward Madison Wedekind said. “We just let the first few goals get to us and we kind of fell apart a little bit.”
Aquinas piled on three more goals in the second half to cruise to the state title.
The journey may have looked easy for Aquinas, but the players agree that this year’s championship was more difficult, and more meaningful, than any of the previous.
“This year I think it was the hardest battle to get to state with all the teams we had to play,” Pyle said. “It’s extremely different because every year we hear, ‘Play for the seniors.’ Now this year it was, ‘I’m a senior so do it for me.’ Ever since my freshman year I have wanted this.”
Bishop Carroll 2, Mill Valley 1
Mill Valley mentally headed for a second overtime before Wichita Bishop Carroll did, and it cost them in the Class 5A third-place game on Saturday.
With literally only seconds to play in the first overtime, Carroll’s Maria Walden connected on a curving corner kick that went in as time expired, giving the Eagles a 2-1 victory.
“The girl hit a great corner kick that went through and hit the inside post and went in,” Mill Valley coach Arlan Vomhof said. “It’s a bummer.”
Mill Valley’s Abigail Sieperda scored the game’s first goal less than six minutes into the first half. Carroll’s Shelby Lopez answered with her own goal about 10 minutes later to send the teams to half tied one goal each.
A scoreless second half sent the teams to overtime, where it was Walden’s last-second dramatics that ended it.
“Magic happened there,” Carroll coach Greg Rauch said. “Truthfully, I feel terrible for Mill Valley because if you are on the receiving end of that it’s just awful. But obviously you give it a chance and that’s exactly why you send the ball in.”